Objectives: The aim of the current study is to examine a wide range of aspects of sexual functioning, with an emphasis on understanding positive sexual functioning (e.g., sexual desire, sexual esteem, sexual thoughts and fantasies). We also explored the relationship between participant characteristics (severity of social impairment, age, gender, relationship status) and sexual well-being.
Methods: Participants were 342 high-functioning adults (18-73 years) with self-reported ASDs and average to above average cognitive abilities who completed a set of online questionnaires. Of these, 79% (109 men, 161 women, 1 transgender) had been or were currently in a relationship of three months or longer; Seventy-one (44 men, 25 women, 2 transgender) had never been in a relationship. Findings will be presented for the 270 adults (non transgender) who had been in a relationship. On average, participants were 39 years old (SD = 11.0), 90% identified themselves as white, and 78% had completed some college or graduate work. 66% were currently in a relationship. Participants completed measures assessing sexual well-being including satisfaction, desire, knowledge, cognitions, self-esteem, assertiveness, arousability, anxiety, sexual problems, sexual experience, and on-line sexual activity.
Results: Most participants (71%) identified themselves as heterosexual, and compared to normative data, participants reported poorer sexual functioning. Canonical correlation analysis was used to determine the relationship between demographic characteristics (age, gender, relationship status, severity of ASD symptomatology) and measures of sexual functioning. Three significant functions emerged. The first indicated that being in a relationship was associated with higher sexual satisfaction and more off-line sexual activity. The second function indicated that men reported less sex knowledge but more positive sexual functioning in several areas. The third function indicated that younger individuals with more severe symptoms reported less positive sexual functioning in several areas.
Conclusions: Results provide the first comprehensive assessment of the sexual functioning of adults with ASDs, and will be discussed in terms of ways to support adolescents and adults with ASDs to improve their sexual well-being.